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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger does not consider Steelers underdogs

Ben Roethlisberger

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in an unfamiliar position heading into 2019, as Las Vegas oddsmakers consider them an underdog to win the AFC North behind — believe it or not — the Cleveland Browns. It does not sound like Ben Roethlisberger sees it that way, however.

While speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Roethlisberger was asked for his thoughts on the Steelers being viewed as underdogs. He didn’t exactly say the team is embracing that role.

“I’ve been here a long time,” Roethlisberger said with a smirk. “We’re still the Pittsburgh Steelers. We’re still gonna go out and try to win every football game. It’s been a long time since we’ve been to the big one, but if everyone puts forth the effort that we all think we can with the talent we have in this room, we feel confident we can be pretty good.”

There are obviously a lot of question marks surrounding the Steelers this year after the departures of both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. However, they’re confident James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster can continue to be productive, and head coach Mike Tomlin has implied he feels the team will be better off without Brown and Bell.

Even if they don’t want to admit they are underdogs behind the Browns, Roethlisberger and his teammates would be wise to make the most of that perception.

JuJu Smith-Schuster backs Ben Roethlisberger in Twitter post

It’s safe to say that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is a fan of his quarterback.

Smith-Schuster, the newly-anointed No. 1 wide receiver for the Steelers, made perfectly clear his support of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with a Twitter post on Saturday afternoon that seemed timed to send a message.

Every comment Smith-Schuster makes out of the blue about Roethlisberger is going to look like shade at this point. It’s in stark contrast to Antonio Brown, who seems to comment on every public comment anyone from Pittsburgh makes about him after his acrimonious departure to Oakland.

The relationship between Brown and Smith-Schuster also turned toxic after the trade. It may be that the Steelers wide receiver is just pumping up his quarterback, but given the circumstances of the offseason, it’s always going to look like more than that.

Ben Roethlisberger: Antonio Brown won’t let me apologize in person

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger says he has tried to settle any issues that exist between him and Antonio Brown, but his former Pittsburgh Steelers teammate does not seem interested in hearing what the quarterback has to say.

In an interview with KDKA in Pittsburgh on Monday, Roethlisberger publicly apologized to Brown for going too far in his criticism of him, particularly when he blamed Brown for an interception in a game against the Denver Broncos last year. Big Ben then explained on Tuesday that he has tried to bury the hatchet with Brown in private, but the new Oakland Raiders star won’t respond to his calls or texts.

“I would have loved to have had the chance to talk to him,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why I said (Monday), whatever I did to offend him, I apologize for it. I tried to do that in person, talk to him. He wouldn’t allow me to.”

Roethlisberger sounds like he is being sincere, but Brown does not seem to be buying it. Shortly after Ben’s interview aired on Monday, Brown sent a cryptic tweet that many believe was a direct response.

Last season was not the first time Roethlisberger had criticized Brown, as he also called him out for pouting two years ago. The two were at odds the next season over the national anthem, and then they had their infamous altercation at the end of last season.

Perhaps Brown and Big Ben will hug it out one day, but now obviously is not the time.

Did Antonio Brown respond to Ben Roethlisberger with tweet?

Antonio Brown

Did Antonio Brown respond to Ben Roethlisberger with a tweet sent on Monday? That’s what some are thinking.

During an interview with KDKA in Pittsburgh that aired in two parts, Roethlisberger apologized for going too far in his criticism of Brown. The Steelers quarterback said sorry for blaming Brown for an interception and apologized if the criticism ruined their relationship.

Not long after Roethlisberger’s comments were publicized online, Brown sent the following tweet that said “two face.”

He sent another follow-up tweet:

KDKA, which aired the Roethlisberger interview, thinks the tweet was intended for Roethlisberger.

The relationship between Brown and Roethlisberger has been frayed for a while. Big Ben called out Brown for pouting two years ago. The two were at odds the next season over the national anthem, and then they had their infamous altercation at the end of last season.

Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh and got traded to the Oakland Raiders this offseason, while the Steelers extended Roethlisberger’s contract. The two players will be going their separate ways moving forward after nine seasons as teammates.

Ben Roethlisberger sorry for going ‘too far’ with Antonio Brown criticism

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger thinks he could have done some things differently during the final season of his doomed relationship with Antonio Brown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback apologized for going “too far” with some of his criticism of Brown, particularly after a November game against Denver when Roethliberger publicly criticized the receiver’s route running.

Roethlisberger’s leadership style is frequently public and sometimes confrontational, and that clearly grated on Brown. After the season ended, the wide receiver went scorched earth on Roethlisberger before his eventual trade to Oakland. Nobody should be holding their breath for Brown to accept Roethlisberger’s apology at this point.

Report: Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger agree to new two-year deal

Ben Roethlisberger

The Pittsburgh Steelers have settled their new contract with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the deal is for two years and worth $63 million.

That is roughly the going rate for an elite quarterback. It was widely known that this deal was pretty close to getting done over the last day or two, and the two sides have been optimistic about reaching it for a while.

Roethlisberger threw 34 touchdowns last season and a league-leading 5,129 passing yards. At age 37 and having considered retirement in the past, it’s fair to wonder if this two-year deal will be his last.

Steelers are taking a big risk with Ben Roethlisberger contract extension

Ben Roethlisberger

The Pittsburgh Steelers are extending Ben Roethlisberger’s contract, one year before the current deal was set to expire. Roethlisberger, who just turned 37, has openly pondered retirement in the past and said he does not know how long he will play. He’s now the last man standing in Pittsburgh, with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell gone.

Pittsburgh is putting faith that Big Ben will age like Tom Brady and Drew Brees have recently, because this year was already under contract and the extension applies to age 38 and 39. While it is true that rule changes have helped stave off Father Time, I would be hesitant to view this situation as identical for several reasons. Roethlisberger is not Brady in terms of the extreme diet and focus on his body. He’s had more injuries over the course of his career and taken more hits than both Brady and Brees, and he’s a different body type.

But just as importantly, Roethlisberger has had it really good in terms of offensive teammates. It’s hard to separate out the full contribution of a quarterback from all of his offensive teammates and scheme, but comparatively, we can say that Roethlisberger has had “A” level help on offense and the Steelers have put up “B” level results.

Let’s put his offensive teammates in some historical perspective. Here is a list of guys that are, in my estimation, the top 25 quarterbacks from ages 32 to 36, accounting for Hall of Famers who were still doing it through age 36, and others that had good production in their mid-30s. This shows how many offensive teammates they played with at those ages that were Pro Bowlers and/or First-Team All-Pros. That final number is the quarterback’s league-adjusted net yards per passing attempt (ANYA). A score of 100 is average, higher is better, and MVP candidates tend to be above 120.

Roethlisberger is behind only Trent Green in terms of average number of All-Pro and Pro Bowl teammates through his mid-thirties. Green did not age gracefully as his offensive scheme and talented teammates declined, and retired before his 38th birthday. Roethlisberger more than doubles most of the other good quarterbacks in their mid-30s in terms of top teammates, yet his efficiency numbers are middle of the pack compared to that group. If you want to compare him to Brees and Brady, then it’s fair to note that those two have had more talent (as measured by Pro Bowl teammates) in their late-30s than in their mid-30s, and that has helped them stay productive. Roethlisberger has had more All-Pro teammates in the last five years (nine seasons) than Brees and Brady did combined from ages 32 to 36, yet those two put up higher efficiency numbers over those same ages.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that it is unlikely that Roethlisberger’s situation is better at age 38 and 39 than it was in the past few years. Not only are Brown and Bell gone, but the offensive line, which has been a stable force with several top players, will be aging. By 2020, all four of the main cogs — David DeCastro, Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, and Ramon Foster — on the offensive line who have started 241 games over the last four seasons collectively will be over the age of 30. Pittsburgh’s offensive line consistency has been a big factor in the recent offensive run, but they will be one of the oldest position groups in short order.

There have been 50 teams that have had five offensive starters named to the Pro Bowl, excluding the quarterback, since the AFL-NFL merger. Pittsburgh in the last two seasons comprises two of them. The average quarterback playing with five-plus Pro Bowlers on offense put up a league-adjusted ANYA score of 120. Roethlisberger is below that, at 111 and 112 over the last two years, and is in the bottom 12 out of those 50 seasons by pass efficiency for each. (Dieter Brock, who started his first ever NFL game at age 34 with the 1985 Rams, had a league average score of 100 for the lowest among this group).

Most of the elite quarterbacks, when playing with a top 5 percent group of offensive players, put up near-MVP level numbers. We have not seen that consistently from Roethlisberger over the last two years, as he will have great games but is near league average in throwing interceptions and has not been as consistent in putting up big numbers.

You can pay one of the best three to five quarterbacks in the league the top money. You can afford to go cheap and get a younger quarterback and let the offensive core bolster him (see Dallas for an example). What you cannot afford to do is pay an average to slightly above average starter a salary equal to the best in the game. I would question whether choosing to do so for Roethlisberger at age 38 and 39 is a good move. That’s especially true because they did not have to pay him. 2019 is a big risk variable year in Pittsburgh. There have been big changes. Because he was under contract, the Steelers could have waited to see how things went this season for Roethlisberger with Brown removed from the mix. Now, Pittsburgh is paying Ben for future years, and they better hope it does indeed turn out like Brady and Brees and not like, well, just about every other quarterback in history.